Computer aficionado James Sheppard plays as many Star Wars titles as possible…
Star Wars. Even the name evokes scenes of wonder, excitement, and a glorious space opera spread across generations of geeks, nerds and the hipster chic. The very idea of Star Wars has spread into the zeitgeist of our society, to such a degree, we have toys, books, comics, games, VR experiences and even lunchboxes! Even those that hate it can recite quotes to impress a prospective date in a pub or restaurant.
I wouldn’t recommend this; non-geeks always think the quote is: “Luke – I am your father”. Imagine me, watching Wimbledon on Henman Hill and shouting; “Come on Villa!”
See it’s stupid isn’t it. I don’t even like netball.
Anyway, computer gaming and Star Wars are the perfect bedfellows. Both film and gaming can tell epic stories of far off places, drama, action and romance. Star Wars has all this in droves across a galaxy far, far away. Apart from ‘Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure’. If you hated Ewoks before, this film will make you disown Wicket and send him back to the pound. And let’s not even think about episodes I-III……
Having re-watched the original trilogy (on VHS), and then feeling the joy of Darth Vader’s rage at the end of ‘Rogue One’ (Spoiler alert), I decided to look back at a few of my favourite computer games set in the Star Wars universe. With dozens of titles spread across consoles and PC, trawling through all the titles was no mean feat. I had to be decisive. I had to cut out the wheat from the chaff. I had to shoot first just like Han Solo did in the cantina.
To begin my journey, I had to look at one of the newest Star Wars experiences available; The X-wing VR mission.
I loved the X-wing and TIE Fighter series, and had spent hours flying missions for the Rebellion and Empire in equal measure whilst John Williams classics blared into my headphones. Now, technology enabled me to truly step into the cockpit of one of the most iconic craft ever designed for screen. With the VR headset on, a PS4 controller in hand, and a sense of utter bliss, I could walk around my X-wing examining the lines and contours of the craft whilst an R2 unit performed the last checks for flight.
Once in the cockpit, I could press buttons, activate my targeting computer and make the S-foils open and contract. It was at this point, as I pressed the start button and was launched into a squadron of other X-wings following a convoy of Corellian Corvettes and GR-75 transports, that I realised I was squealing madly. I entered Hyperspace and flew into an asteroid field as we pursued our rescue mission, dodging spiralling rocks, shooting lasers, and generally having all my geek fantasies come true.
Then the Star Destroyer arrived to the party.
Arguably, one of the most iconic ships of the original trilogy, I got to fly around its brutalist outline, evading screaming TIEs, hearing my squadrons’ combat chatter and being a hero of the Rebellion. I lined up shots, avoided TIEs on my six, and enveloped myself within the entire simulation through the VR headset. I disabled the Star Destroyers weapons, launched proton torpedoes at its targeting array, and escorted our prize to safety. The mission ended. I was exhausted and excited in equal measure, and this was just the start of the marathon. Eat your heart out, Paula Radcliffe.
I wanted to experience a massive Star Wars series next, so looked at one of my personal favourites featuring a little-known Jedi called Kyle Katarn; a former Imperial Stormtrooper who defects to the Rebel Alliance, and stars in the Jedi Knight games. From the original Dark Forces, all the way through to Jedi Academy, this series allowed you to shoot mercenaries and stormtroopers, and enter into epic lightsabre duels with evil Sith overlords.
Well, it was meant too.
Time, unfortunately, hasn’t been kind to some of these older games, with fights descending into strafing wars and glitches into walls. The story was still amazing though, with Dark Forces 2 including live action cutscenes and acting so hammy, Miss Piggy would have sued. The shining beacon on this entry though, is the choice between following the Jedi way, or turning to the Dark side of the force. It’s at this stage in everyone’s life, that we ask ourselves: “Do I want to shoot lightning out of my fingertips?”
Of course, I did.
Turning to evil had never felt so right before.
The Force Unleashed games worked in a different way; you started evil and then realised the error of your ways, and went on to help found the Rebel Alliance in a cacophony of force lightning, and the moral compass of a toddler demanding cookies. Despite fighting for ‘good’, you could still throw stormtroopers around like rag dolls, and throw exploding barrels at hapless wildlife. Wielding lightsabres and an attitude, the combat is frenetic and satisfyingly easy to get to grips with.
And you use the force to crash a Star Destroyer into a planet.
I’m not sure any more needs to be said about that series.
After a marathon of old Star Wars titles, though they were all classics in their own way, my mind began to wander wildly. Maybe I peaked too early with the VR. Maybe in our modern times we are spoilt by graphics, and the evolution of gameplay. For me, immersing myself completely in the act of boarding an X-wing to take on the Empire held too much allure. I went back and replayed the mission half a dozen more times, each time, although the same, was also different.
Sometimes looking at something that’s inherently the same, but in a different way, can really change the concept of the entire thing.
Did you know that Yodas’ original name in the script of ‘An Empire Strikes Back’ was Buffy?